Pastoral Visit of the Executive Minister: Johor Bahru, Malaysia
March 2, 2019
Written by Gazel Joy Ragat and Pammilove Salvanera
THE FAST-GROWING CITY of Johor Bahru is the southernmost city in Malaysia and shares its borders with Singapore. The lingua franca in the city, Bahasa Melayu, has many words similar to that of the Filipino language. This may be one of the reasons many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Malaysia find it easy to learn and speak Bahasa Melayu, resulting in a growth in the number of Filipinos working here. Among them are members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ).
Working abroad is not easy because it means being away from one’s family. Despite this, many Filipinos still do, with the hope of giving their loved ones a good future. They sacrifice a lot just to provide their families’ needs. Eating alone in their apartment, caring for themselves when they are sick, and celebrating their birthdays alone are familiar scenarios to many OFWs. Despite also experiencing such, Church Of Christ members never forsake to serve the Lord God, to fulfill their Church duties, and to participate in the activities launched by the Church Administration, especially in sharing their faith with their friends and colleagues who are not yet members of the Church Of Christ.
One of them is Sister Eduviges Bartolome, a deaconess. She is one of the pioneer members of the Johor Bahru Congregation, which began a Group Worship Service (GWS). To her, it is very important to help in the Church’s endeavor to propagate the words of God to many people. “The giving of Pasugo magazines and pamphlets about the Church Of Christ will help spread the truth about the Iglesia Ni Cristo,” she said. Sister Eduviges recalled: “Listening to the words from the Bible as they were being read to me during the worship services and Bible studies of the Iglesia Ni Cristo really changed my perspective. I learned the great difference between my former religious practices and the teachings of the Bible taught in the Church Of Christ. I realized that worshiping images of those I identified before as Jesus, Mary, and the so-called saints is unbiblical.”
The nature of OFWs’ work demands much of their time. However, Brother Melchor Calipayan, a former Catholic, then, a member of the Baptist Church, made time to seek God and know the right way of serving Him. “Before I became a Church Of Christ member, I studied and observed many different religious beliefs. I always thought that there should only be one true religion that is acknowledged by God and the other religions are false,” he recalled. Brother Melchor felt the urge to seek the true one. “When I first heard God’s teachings through the Church Of Christ TV program entitled The Message, I felt I was listening to the true words of God clearly and directly delivered from the Bible,” he continued. When he understood clearly all the lessons in the doctrinal study for prospective members, he resolved to follow God’s will. He declared, “The Bible proves that there is only one true religion that is acknowledged by God and that is the Church Of Christ.” Brother Melchor is now a deacon in the Local Congregation of Johor Bahru.
On March 2, 2019, the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, officiated at a worship service held at the Persada Johor International Convention Center, Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The brethren invited many nonmembers of the Church to attend the worship service. During his preaching, the Executive Minister pointed out that people should prioritize pursuing salvation especially now that the Day of Judgment is very near. He emphasized the biblical truth that people can attain salvation only if they are in the true Church Of Christ.
Brother Michael Tho Lek Tong, a Malaysian citizen, faithfully took to heart the Executive Minister’s biblical preaching and said, “I deeply treasure my membership in the Church and I treat it as the only key to salvation.” He is active in fulfilling his duties as a choir member, KADIWA congregation vice president, and Children’s Worship Service officer. Being one of the Church officers who led in inviting nonmembers, he said, “With God’s help, my fianceè and I were able to invite 37 guests who are Malaysian-Indians whose religion is Hinduism. They were grateful and happy after the event. Some of them showed interest in learning more about the Church Of Christ, so I will continue to invite them.”
Brother Kaw Htet Zaw, a Myanmar national, also recalled a time before he entered the Church Of Christ: “Before, I always thought that all Christians worshiped a triune God. I also thought that if I would just believe in Christ, then I would be a true Christian no matter what religion I were in. However, during my Bible studies in the Church Of Christ, I learned about the one true God, the one true Church, and that not all manners of worship are acceptable to God.” He was invited to evangelical missions by Brother Melchor. After some time, Brother Kaw made the most significant decision of his life. He said, “I decided to join the true Church—the Church Of Christ—and worship the Lord God in the right manner.” He is now a Light of Salvation secretary in the Church.
Members of the Church Of Christ from Malaysia truly believe that they received a great blessing during the worship service officiated by the Executive Minister. They are convinced that God will continue to bless them as they share their faith to more and more people. Brother Kaw, who now shares his faith with his fellow Myanmarese friends by translating for them the biblical lessons, expressed his conviction: “I will safeguard my divine election by putting into practice God’s commandments. It is His commandment to unite with the Church Administration in sharing our faith. That is why, for me, it is important to let people know about the Iglesia Ni Cristo because not all churches are of Christ and of God. If they remain outside the Church, they will not attain salvation.”